No sweet tune for govt as NT bears loss

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, May 1:

The government is incurring a double loss following a halt in mobile phone services after February 1. On one hand, it has incurred a loss of around Rs 400 million in revenues that it used to get from Nepal Telecom (NT), it is, on the other hand, losing revenue from imports of mobile handsets also.

The import of handsets has declined sharply during the months of February, March and April. According to the customs office at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), only four units of handsets have been imported in Chaitra (March-April), while the number of handsets imported in Falgun (February-March) was nill.

Earlier, the average number of handsets being imported to Nepal through the TIA was around 3,000 every month.

Meanwhile, two trade unions — Nepal Telecom Workers’ Union (NTCWU) and Telecom Employees’ Association of Nepal (TEAN), both associated to the Nepal Telecom

(NT) — have decided to put pressure on the management to reopen the services, in a bid to resume the mobile phone service.

“Putting pressure on NT management to resume mobile phone service, making users aware of their rights and pressurising the responsible authorities to begin the service are our initial programmes. However, we would also take a step forward and go on strike, if our initial protest fails to resume mobile operations,” said Kumar Jung Karki, president of NTCWU.

Nepal Telecom is one of the largest revenue generators that contributes about five per cent to the national budget. It is bearing a loss of Rs 8 million every day, owing to the closure of mobile service. The revenue loss is expected to be more than Rs 950 million during the last three months.

NT had received an official letter from communication ministry to resume its service from April 8, but the service has not resumed yet, he said. “The closure of mobile phone service has created a negative impression on our subscribers. It is losing its credibility as well. If the situation remains for long, it would be a disaster,” Karki said.

The higher officials at the NT have only assured of the resumption but could not specify the date. “We can not declare the date, said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director at the NT, “Once we get the ‘go ahead’ signal from the concerned authority, the service would resume in less than six hours, he added.

In a context, when most of the public-private companies have failed to perform successfully, NT has proven to be a profitable organisation paying the government a large chunk of revenue.

“The halt of NT mobile service is ambiguous. At a time when another company is all set to begin its mobile operations, the delay in resuming the NT mobile service could turn out to be a bane to NT,” employees said.

UTL, a private phone company, that was also disrupted after February 1, has already come into operations. Both the UTL and NT mobile phone service has been halted citing the security reasons.